Follow The Leader: How To Surrender To The Holy Spirit During Your Choir Performances

One thing I tend to stress often with you guys is the importance of really knowing your songs. I mean moving past that “I know it well enough to follow the director” stage we’re all content with. I mean really knowing the song. I’m talking about having the lyrics memorized, not this thing where we’re nervously depending on the director to feed us every line. I’m talking about really understanding the format of the song and how it moves from one section to another one.

But perhaps I haven’t really made a strong enough case for why that’s important and how it benefits your ministry as a whole. Quite simply, the more thoroughly you know a song the more powerfully you’ll minister that song. Something happens when everyone in the group is absolutely certain about every part of a song they’re about to sing.

There is this cohesiveness there. This sense of unity. Everyone is with one accord. And we know the Holy Spirit moves when we’re with one accord. So in moments like these powerful, anointed, spirit-led moments of music ministry tends to happen. But they only happen because we’ve eliminated all mental distractions that normally hinder our spirits from really surrendering completely to God.

When we’re unsure we’re really too distracted with the task of getting through the song without mistakes. So nobody can really follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The director can’t, the song leader can’t, the group members can’t. Because we’re all too busy nervously getting through one section after another.

We become locked into predefined repetitions and formats that we can’t deviate from because everyone is so unsure that if we do there will be some kind of mistake. But when everyone is absolutely on point with every part of the song, there is a freedom that takes place spiritually. In moments like these the Holy Spirit often takes over and leads the director or the song leader.

We did a song Sunday morning that we’ve done many times, called God Is Able. One of those churchy, hand-clapping, foot-stomping songs. So we know it very well. I was directing the choir. We came up to this one part in the song where we would normally repeat it a couple of times and go back to the chorus.

But this time the Holy Spirit started dealing with me and I just didn’t feel led to move from that spot. . So I just kept having them repeat that same two lines, right where we were:

“He’ll be there when you call Him/
He’ll be there when you need Him”

I just kept repeating it and it seemed like the more we repeated that phrase the higher the spirit got in the sanctuary, until everyone was just going in. Well, the whole format changed from there, because at that point everyone was following me, but I was following the leader. We never went to the real vamp of the song. That became the vamp and I just let God have His way right there; with me, the band, the leader and the choir.

We didn’t do anything that morning the way the song normally goes or the way we rehearsed it. But I had the freedom to allow God to just guide me in the direction He wanted the song to go because I know the choir and musicians knew it well enough to follow. I also knew the leader was skilled enough to just flow in the spirit right there, and would have no problem ad-libing as long as the Holy Spirit needed us to. So we all followed the leader. The ultimate leader.

Have a great week!
Ron
Ps. What if you were leading the spirit took over? Could you keep going as long as the spirit needed you to? Would you run out of words, or become anxious or irritated that the director got happy and won’t stop? If so, I have something I’d like you to see. Take a look here.

The top 5 most used choir director hand signals

When you’re learning how to be a good choir director, job one is learning how to give clear directions to your choir. To be effective though, you need to do two things. You need to learn how to give them early enough so your choir has time to understand what you want and be prepared to execute it. Secondly, you need to use gestures and/or hand signals that they can clearly understand. While every choir director develops his own style of giving direction over time, there are certain basic commands you need to learn right away to move your choir through a song. In Gospel music these commands have over time developed hand signals that are almost universally used in black churches.

Today I’ll reveal the top five Gospel choir hand signals:

1. Go back to the top!

This tells your choir to go back to the beginning of the song.
The hand signal: Place one hand over the top of your head, palm facing down

2. Sing that again!

This tells your choir to repeat something that was just sang. It’s most commonly used when you first take the choir into the vamp, but it can be used anywhere you want something repeated.
The hand signal:  Repeatedly make a circular motion with one arm, index finger extended.

3. Sing the verse here!  

Use this to let your choir know a verse is about to happen; whether it’s your leader or the choir that has it.
The hand signal:  Hold up the” Peace” sign nice and high so everyone can see it.

4. Let’s go to the vamp!

This tells your choir it’s time to” take it home”, as they say.
The hand signal:  With your thumb, do the hitch-hiking move over your shoulder.

5. Let’s end the song now! 

This tells the choir we’re about to do the big finale and end the song.

The hand signal:  Hold up one or both hands, arm(s) straight up. You can use clinched fists or open hands.

 

There ya go! Now, this is no means an all inclusive list of everything you’ll ever need. For example, you’ll need to learn how and when to ask them to clap, move from side to side, etc. For more reading on the subject you may also like 4 Things Every Good Choir Director Must Do.